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Houston Airports Supports Southwest Airlines’ Effort to Launch International Service at Houston’s Hobby Airport

© Houston Airport System
HOUSTON, May 1, 2012—In a memorandum to Mayor Annise Parker, Houston Director of Aviation Mario Diaz recommends the City of Houston work with Southwest Airlines (Southwest) to expand the federal inspection services (FIS) facility at William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) to support scheduled commercial international service.

“I have concluded given Southwest’s existing and sizeable domestic network operation at Hobby, it would not be reasonable to require the airline to relocate to Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), or even conduct split operations – domestic service at Hobby and international service at Intercontinental,” said Diaz. “Therefore, it’s my recommendation we support Southwest’s request to begin the process of obtaining the necessary approvals to initiate international service at Hobby.”

Houston Airports commissioned two independent studies to evaluate the economic impact on the City of Houston from international flights operated by Southwest.

Those studies, by two acknowledged experts in the aviation industry, found that international air service at HOU is projected to generate an additional 1.5 million passengers to, from and through Houston annually, creating more than 10,000 jobs and generating an annual economic impact of more than $1.6 billion.

In addition, the studies determined increased competition will result in an expanded market for all airlines that serve Houston. The findings note other metropolitan areas with more than one international airport - South Florida, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and New York/New Jersey - have seen expanded service, particularly where low-cost carriers like Southwest helped spur competition.

“By adding new international air service at Hobby, it creates competition in the Houston-Latin America market, leading to lower airfares and more travel options for the public,” concludes Diaz.

Mayor Parker is reviewing the study and seeking input from stakeholders before deciding whether to accept Mr. Diaz's recommendation and seek City Council approval to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding to allow Southwest to pursue the necessary federal approvals for international flights at HOU.

During the week of April 16, Mr. Diaz made his recommendation to a joint meeting of Houston City Council’s budget and fiscal affairs and transportation, technology and infrastructure committees as well as to the Greater Houston Partnership’s transportation committee.

To learn more, go to

The following documents are posted online:

• Recommendation of the Director of Aviation to provide Federal Inspection facilities at William P. Hobby   (Memorandum from Director of Aviation Mario Diaz)
• Attachment 1: Proposed FIS Facility
• Attachment 2: The Economic Impact of International Air Service at William P. Hobby
• Attachment 3: Articles illustrating the effect of low-cost competition on airfares, known as the “Southwest Effect”
• Attachment 4: U.S. Customs and Border Protection Initiatives
• Attachment 5: Southwest Airlines and United Airlines Correspondence
• Attachment 6: William P. Hobby Airport Master Plan – 2003  
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